I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I train at the gym I have one intention. It’s to build more muscles. I’m sure this is the same for you.
As a fitness coach and personal trainer I need to answer this question all the time:
How can I get bigger?
It’s easy if you follow some simple rules. You will be able to increase your muscles mass without increasing your body fat!
First rule on the list is you need to lift heavy weights to increase your muscle mass. When you challenge your muscles enough, you damage the tiny micro-fibers of the muscle. With the right nutrition and enough rest you repair the damage, and with this repair your muscles slowly grow. To get good results, make sure you challenge your muscles with intensity in your workout. If you take too long of a rest in between sets, your muscles will not get the intensity they need to be really challenged. I suggest taking only just enough time to catch your breath (around 30 to 45 sec.) and then start another set right away.
By the way if you have never tried Super Charge before a workout…go for it! You will see a whole different you at the gym!
Technique is important – make sure you always use the correct technique. Ok, so even I cheat sometimes, but it usually happens at the end of my set when I start to get muscle fatigue. If I want to push little bit more I will use a “little bit” of momentum, which is okay, but don’t do this right from your first rep. Only use this shortcut if you want to make 1 or 2 EXTRA reps and you don’t have any one to spot you and help you with your lift.
If you use momentum from the first reps, you will not work the right muscles and your workout won’t be as efficient. Feel the pump in the muscle you want to work right now. If you are working your back and you feel more strain in your biceps, it’s probably because when you start the motion you didn’t retract your shoulder blade first to properly engage your back muscle.
For example, when your perform a lat pull down, you should be able to move the bar from a few inches down, and have your arms totally straight over your head. How do you do this? By retracting your shoulder blade. Only when you reach the maximum movement from your shoulder blade is it time to pull with your arms.
You will probably need to decrease the weight at first because it’s a new technique, but in few weeks you will be able to lift the same weight as before, and more, and because you have a better technique, you’ll get better results!
Fatigue your muscles
To make your workout as efficient as possible you need to fatigue your muscles. For example, if you usually do only 3 or 4 sets in for your chest workout, you need to increase the number of sets or add more exercises.
For the big muscle groups like chest, back, legs and shoulders I usually do a total of between 12 and 15 sets. For the small muscle group like calf, biceps and triceps, I will go with 9 to 12 sets. You can play with the number of exercises. Here’s an example:
- Incline Dumbbells Fly: 2 sets of 12-15 reps (Warm-up)
- Incline Bench Press: 5 sets, 12-8-6-4-10 reps
- Flat Bench Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
- Push Ups: 2 sets, reach your maximum reps
This workout gives you a total of 12 sets for your chest workout. If you’re not able to feel the pump after this, there’s something wrong with your intensity. Maybe the weight is too light or you’re taking too long of a break in between sets, or maybe take a close look at your technique. Performing this type of workout I feel my chest pump hard and like it’s full of blood – I like that feeling!
The next workout you can change everything around:
- Flat Dumbbells Press: 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps
- Flat Bench Press: 7 sets of 12-12-10-10-6-6-4 reps
- Cable Cross Over: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
With a little change like this you will challenge your muscles at every workout. I like to design two different programs for each muscle group, and alternate them for 6 to 8 weeks.
Time Under Tension
Play with your ‘Time Under Tension’ (TUT). The TUT is how long you keep the charge during a lift. For example, if you take 2 seconds to lift up, hold 1 second – don’t lock your joint – and bring down for 2 seconds (2-1-2), this is a total of 5 seconds for each rep. This helps you to keep the tension longer or shorter on your muscles. If you design a program with higher reps you can go slower for your lift. You will probably use less weight, but you will feel the fatigue in your muscles big time, my friend. This is the key!
If your set is for 12 reps and you do the TUT for 2-1-2 this equals at 12 (reps) X 5 sec = 60 seconds with the charge. You will feel it! What is important is to not always keep this speed – sometimes you’ll want to go faster, like 1-0-1 (1 second up – don’t hold- 1 second down).
Full Range of motion
Another way to get your muscles to grow is to use the full range of motion. This way you’ll stretch your muscles during the set and that’s important to be able to get more blood to your muscle fibers. When you perform the full range of motion, make sure you never lock any joint!
To make to most of your workout train more with compound exercises instead of isolation exercises. When you do compound exercises you engage more muscles at once and it’s much better for muscle gain.
Keep a training log
It is so important to keep track of your progress! You need to keep track of what weight you lift and for how many reps. Write down everything; how you feel that day, if you did just 8 reps instead of the usual 9 or 10, whatever it is, write it down. Same thing if you lift more weight. You need to know your progress. Go back to your old training log from time to time to see the progress you made from last year. You will be surprised! If you don’t do this, you don’t know how far you’ve come!
Time for your Session
Don’t take too long for your workout. Your weight training should not take longer than 45 to 50 minutes at a maximum. If you train longer than that, your intensity isn’t right. Many studies show after an intense weight training workout your level of testosterone decrease by almost 80% after 47 minutes. If you go over that, your muscle building potential decreases drastically. The key is to keep it short but intense!
Eat right to build muscle
Now the most important part of your body for muscle growth is your mouth. You need to eat to be able to increase your weight. If you don’t have enough calories to support your workout, you will never be able to grow. It’s simple. Some people told me they cannot eat enough – they eat a lot and feel too full to add another meal or a shake during the day.
Here’s my answer: increase your good fat intake, like flax seed oil, extra virgin coconut oil, natural peanut butter or avocado for example. If you add 3 or 4 table spoons of oil per day you increase your calories by almost 500 calories during the day and you will not feel it at all. It’s easy and simple to do, just add it to pasta, salads, pretty much anything. Plus, try to eat more complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, yams or sweet potatoes and whole wheat pasta.
Protein is very important for your muscle gain. It helps to build and repair the muscles with good amino acid. You should eat AT LEAST 1 gram per pound of body weight each day, but you can still try to eat more than that. Keep an eye on your lean mass/body fat ratio to see how you are progressing. Don’t forget to increase the number of carbs or protein when you increase your mass to keep growing.
I don’t eat very much simple carbs, except after my workout. This is another way to increase your calorie intake without adding body fat. After your workout, drink a protein shake mixed with juice. I like a mix of strawberry protein powder and orange juice. After a hard workout this is so good! At this point your body doesn’t need fat, but needs simple sugars to replenish the glycogen level in your muscles. If you can get these in, your recuperation will be faster and you’ll have less soreness tomorrow! After your shake, wait for 60 to 90 minutes and then have a nice meal with lean protein, complexes carbs and good fats.
Don’t forget your cardio
Because you need to eat more than before, but don’t want your body fat to get too high, I suggest you keep at least 3 sessions of cardio per week. You can perform some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for your cardio, and keep your sessions to around 15 to 20 minutes. Try the HIIT method by performing a sprint for 30 seconds, followed by 30 to 60 seconds of recovery, and repeat to make up your workout, but don’t forget to warm up and cool down with some walking or gentle exercise. You can use a bike, treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine or step master. Any of those machines are fine. Make sure you keep a good position during the sprint and really engage your core muscles.
If you follow these simple rules you should be able to see a significant gain in your muscle mass in the next few months. Remember weight training is a lifestyle commitment and not a quick fix!
All the best and send me your feedback on your progress!
Keep Moving, Stay Fit,
Martin Bolduc, CPT
** Martin Bolduc is the author of the Ultimate Guide to Express Fat Loss and the winner of the Lean Body Challenge 2008. Martin is a Certified Personal Trainer ACE and BCRPA and a natural bodybuilder. Martin helps hundreds of clients to reach their goals. Get your Special Report on Express Fat Loss